If you think things are getting better in Long Term Care, think again. In the Sunday Toronto Star (February 7, 2021) newspaper there is a special section showing that Health Minister after Health Minister says things are going to change. To date not much has.
The articles outline appalling conditions and more horror as tragedy after tragedy unfolds. The reporters say as they researched the stories it became clear that they are writing the same stories as those getting written 5, 10 and even 20 years ago.
When is our Federal Government going to implement national standards? When are Long Term Care Administration and Boards (not staff) going to be held accountable? When are random inspections going to occur so deficiencies can be identified and plans put in place to address these ongoing issues?
Long Term Care Facilities do not need warnings. It’s time someone was held accountable.
I express my concerns to politicians both federally and provincially. I then receive a form letter from the provincial Health Care Minister and the Federal Minister from Seniors that essentially say they too are gravely concerned.
Yet exactly the same issues we heard about in the spring are occurring one year later. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that doing the same thing won’t have new results.
Before the government puts money toward Long Term Care, wouldn’t it be novel if they talked to the experts – those who work in the facility. Talk to the staff who care for the residents day to day not the Administration, the Board members or the Case Managers. Practical suggestions need to be heard.
Next they need to talk to family caregivers, who in most cases are supplementing the care their loved ones receive – or they were until the pandemic hit. Ask questions such as where do they see money being used for the benefit of the residents. Again practical suggestions would be offered.
Those of us who have navigated the complicated system to see that our loved ones receive quality care, know what is missing. We saw first hand gaps in services. It is certainly not the dedication of staff. They are working as hard as they can. Nowadays people in Long Term Care have more complex needs because we are all living longer.
Staff need to be offered full-time positions. There needs to be stability for the residents as well as the staff. This is not a new idea. It has been said over and over, especially since the pandemic.
Governments, Boards and Administration realized that having part-time positions was a cost-saving measure. This is criminal for staff as well as residents.
For seniors to have a constant parade of caregivers is confusing and even frightening. Staff need time to get to know their patients, learn of their likes and dislikes, and are able to build trust. A community is built. If staff have to work at two or three different facilities this cannot happen.
If you, as a future recipient of such care, want to change things it’s time to make Administration, Boards and Government departments of various Long Term Care Facilities accountable. Ask specific questions. Find out the name of the person responsible and address the letter or email to him or her.
Questions such as:
How many residents do you have?
Are there only single rooms with a private bath?
Do you have rooms for couples?
What is your target staff to resident ratio? How is this calculated? Who is included in calculations?
How many full time Licensed Practical Nurses do you have on staff daily? Are they available seven days a week?
How many part time Licensed Practical Nurses do you have on staff?
How many full time care aids are on staff daily?
How many part time care aids?
How many full time cleaning staff?
How many part time cleaning staff?
How many full time registered nurses?
How many part time registered nurses?
How many full time physical therapists?
How many part time physical therapists?
How many full time occupational therapists?
How many part time occupational therapists?
How many full time recreational therapists?
How many part time recreational therapists?
How many full time nurse practitioners?
How many part time nurse practitioners?
How many full time kitchen staff do you have?
How many part time kitchen staff do you have?
How many full time facilities staff are there?
How many part time facilities staff are there?
Do you have a volunteer coordinator??
Which positions are available seven days a week and which ones are only filled Monday to Friday.
It was my experience that my parents would fall ill Friday evening. The Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner were only available Monday to Friday. So a trip via ambulance to the hospital happened. It was a waste of resources for Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Room Services and was traumatic for residents.
Often a diagnosis of a recurring urinary tract infection took four to six hours in an emergency department to diagnose. Many residents became agitated and confused while being transported or while waiting. If a Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner was one site this could have been handled much more cost effectively as well as humanely.
What can we do? Continue to write letters and e-mails to those who make decisions. Contact the media to keep the care of those who built our country top of mind. If media write a story you enjoy, let them know. Perhaps you have follow up idea for them. Educate yourself as to the differences between private and publicly funded facilities.
If you are a baby boomer, chances are at some point you or someone close to you is going to need some sort of supportive care. It’s time to act to ensure changes are made. We can’t wait any longer.